Monday, June 29, 2009

Jenn E. from the...suburbs?!?!?!

Well my loyal fan base...the season of change has started to bud and Lord knows when the bloom will come, but it will come! I have officially moved off the block I have called home for the past 2 years. All my stuff is packed nicely in a 10x10 climate and bug controlled unit up on Bladensburg road and I am officially a transient!...only I don't pee on the streets

How am I surviving you ask?? Well that's a good question. With no real sense of placement or routine it is making me a little bit anxious, but still VERY excited about what lies ahead! I plan to stay with Chris and Becky (my brother and sis-in law...this allows some quality time with the most precious niece EVER!! see picture where she's holding "baby Shelley"!! haha, she named her baby after my mom...she's a ball if energy!) for a week or two and then move on to the Tshibaka resisdence (where my clothes already reside in a nice big closet in the guest bedroom) down off of rt. 1 in Alexandria. Kelly Brooke is living with the Tsibaka's also (as of Saturday) while we look for a house, so she will be driving me to the metro on the way to work every morning since I don't own a car. My dog is at summer camp (aka: Gammy's house) and my lil'kitty (who thinks she is part dog/ part human) is resting comfortably in the guest bedroom window at my brother & sis in laws house. Comfortable that is until Abby runs in innocently screaming "KITTY CAT!! HERE KITTY CAT!!" and freaks poor Chloe out since she is not used to kids. (Shameless plug: I need someone to foster my cat for the next couple of weeks...until I find a place to live...just look at those big beautiful eyes asking for a loving home in the meantime...and to my loyal Tunisian fan base -> that is a Tunisian television station playing in the background!)

The search for a house continues! Kelly Brooke and I have prayed specifically for certain features and conveniences and so far have not found a rent house that provides a peace about making the decision. Therefor we have now broadened our scope to purchasing a house. One of our prayers is for a 3rd roommate and we are quite certain that we've been provided one! Yay! we found her!! Double Yay!

So things are up in the air for an undetermined amount of time, but strangely enough Kelly Brooke and I are both COMPLETELY ok with that..."And I will provide a place for my people (that refers to me!)... and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed (ie: without a house)..." 2 Samuel 7:10

So, with all of this said...I am SO EXCITED to see what happens next and where I'll end up! In the meantime, I am going to enjoy living in the suburbs for a change and try to enjoy the "peace and quiet" while I have it...Maybe my life will slow down a little bit or at least allow me to catch up with people I haven't talked to in a while.

Special thanks to: My mom/Gammy for watching Montana for me; Chris and Becky for letting me stay and keep my cat there for a little bit; Kelly and Niki Tshibaka for offering up their home and being so excited about having me stay(!); Dawn & Ray for offering up their guest bedroom also; Kelly Brooke for driving me around in her pimp volvo; Chirine and Monaem for allowing me to stay in their guest room the past month and everyone who is helping us look for a house!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"I'm not white!?..."

I was cussed out again last night by one of the "leaners". A leaner is a term that I coined for the persons in my neighborhood that take a multitude of pills and/or other controlled or illegal substances; get so high that they essentially fall asleep standing up. The "sleep" mode that they go into is trance like and causes them to "lean" in all directions but never quite fall over...thus comes my term "leaner". So this woman came in to the B&V market (which now has a nice new space mid-block rather than on the corner) for who knows what. Chirine and I were "in the store" (meaning we were behind the bullet proof acrylic was Chirine first time in!) talking to Brionni and Teddy about houses and the new store. The woman was unsuccessfully trying to put a pen on the turnstile and pretty much ended up with her butt to the glass, and her nose almost to the floor.

Side note: The Leaners are similar to zombies. They are essentially tranced out and unaware of their surroundings. However, a loud noise and they are wide "awake" and most of the time mean.

So Brionni leans over and slaps the glass right where the woman's butt is (after I pretended to pinch her butt through the glass). The woman immediately started yelling about "why would he think it's funny to scare her" as she struggles to stand up. She comes over to where Brionni and I were standing and proceeds to yell at "us" through the glass. I say "us" since we really don't know what she was yelling and more specifically to whom she was really yelling. She looks at me looking at her and asked what the (expletive) was I looking at. I let her know that since we had no idea who she was talking to we were all listening and I apologized if she wasn't directing her conversation towards me.

So here's the deal: I grew up on military bases in Europe where my classes consisted of every race, mixed and not mixed. I did not understand the reasoning behind racism growing up and I do not understand it now. Skin color describes the exterior appearance of a person; it does not define who a person is (despite cultural stereotypes), where they should live or how they should act... So when this woman informed me that I did not belong in this neighborhood and I was trying to be a "negro" I decided to not respond...she continued to cuss me out through the glass, cuss out Teddy and Brionni more, then back to me. Then she started in on me because I was white. I found that the "brain/mouth" sensor was indeed turned off at that point because I replied "I'm not white!?". "what color are you then (expletive) cause you ain't ain't blue... (expletive, expletive)...
I let her know I was tan. I've worked very hard to get this light golden brown tone... apparently that wasn't funny.

She eventually left and went back outside to loiter with the other leaners. Chirine was a little bit scared as this was her first encounter with a leaner. We waited a little bit to let the lady simmer down and to let Chirine relax a little before leaving. This was not my first encounter with a leaner and I learned that the best thing to do is just ignore them. No matter how nice you are (even if just to say "hi, how are you today" you will most likely be perceived to have a condemning attitude and you will be yelled at)...I need to work on taking my own advice.

All joking about my skin color aside...racism sucks. My first day to step foot on this block I was called a "white B*@#&^"... I had to make a decision right then and there. Live in fear of my surroundings because my skin is lighter... or love the people around me no matter what color, what background, what they've done (or not done), what they say or how they view me. I chose the latter. The Lord has changed me exponentially over the past year...I am filled with joy even in challenging situations ("The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy! Psalm 126:3...exclamation mark added). I find I have been more blessed by the people, friends and children in this neighborhood than anywhere else I have ever lived and I cannot let the ignorance of others (or my own for that matter) prevent me from receiving those blessings.

The realization I admitted (I say admitted because I always pretend like it doesn't bother me and I turn it into a joke) this morning is that it truly, truly hurts. Racism hurts. It has cut right to the core of me and made me second guess who I am. Are the things that have been said to me over the past 2+ years true? Do I really not belong here? Did I do anything to warrant that comment? Ok, ok...did I somewhat instigate this woman yesterday?...yes. She is not mentally there, I should have ignored her from the beginning. However, saying "good morning" and getting a verbal rocket attack or standing on the sidewalk looking in an opposite direction and being snobbishly called names due to my lack of melanin is not anything I can prevent. I also refuse to change who I am to avoid potential berating. If someone is offended that I say good morning or that I live in certain place, that is their problem to deal with not mine and I must remember that. Love others consistently (this is a tough one) and treat people with respect (remembering that everyone has a different definition of respect). But despite the overwhelming joy that I have for the end of the day, it matter whose "problem" it is to deal with.

"Love God, Love others...nothing else matters" Matthew 22:37-40

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Juror

I have had the honor of being selected to report for jury duty (oooh, ohhhhh!! PICK ME! PICK ME!!). I have been obsessing about this opportunity for at least 4 years now! I am ECSTATIC to serve the District of Columbia Superior Court!!

I have always wanted to be on a high profile trial...I want to be the bleeding heart conservative that can't make up her mind and in turn is the "swing vote" that will determine the outcome. With all this in mind... the plan: after the trial get an amazing book deal (that of course turns into a movie & Katherine Heigl will play me), make some serious bank thus allowing me to travel the world on a really BIG catamaran (of course working remotely because I don't want to quit my job!)...

July 15th is the big day...what to wear?...what to wear??!

seriously...if I don't get selected I'll probably cry right there in front of the judge and scream "WHY NOT?!"! Then sue the city for discrimination ;)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Vinoria Nampemba

I sponsored this little girl last year through World Vision at the Women of Faith conference. I must say, it has been such a rewarding experience. She is one of 9 children; her family lives in a community severely affected by HIV/AIDS. Her letters are such a sweet reminder that there is joy in life even when surrounded by poverty and illness! She turns 8 this July, and she writes the cutest letters wishing me the 'love of Jesus' and 'blessings for me and my family'... so wonderful to read. of her letters she said her dad needed a new cow and 2 goats. So I called up world vision and asked how much something like that would cost. a goat is $75 and a cow is $150... "Ok, sign me up to send the Nampemba's a goat please". I just got this letter (about 2 months later) with the photo's below... I cannot say how incredibly rewarding it was to see this little girl smiling from ear to ear with all of the items she was able to buy spread out in front of her and to have a picture with her mom!
Thanks to a poor economy worldwide, Vinoria's World Vision representative who brought them the money was able to negotiate well enough to get TWO goats, a new dress for Vinoria, new shoes, a new shirt and shorts, a blanket and a water bottle! PLUS, they also had enough money to transport themselves there and back(with the goats) rather than walk.

"Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me" Matthew 25.40

I recommend sponsoring a child to anyone, regardless of your's a beautiful thing :)

Sorry, the pictures are a little dark...they weren't digital ;)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Only one house left. It will be gone by the time I make it home tonight...The only reason I love this video is that you can hear the GC talking to a man about why that man CANNOT use his port-a-john. Amazing enough that the GC has to justify the reason that the street man cannot use the "potty"...the street man proceeded to argue and put the GC on the defensive as if he is entitled to a "baffroom" since he doesn't have one of his he went in the ally by my house :(
Come on Man!! SERIOUSLY?!
I would be so bored if I didn't live here :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bringin' down the house(s)!! Literally

Right behind our good buddy Officer Wright (yay John! Your first cameo...that and I didn't have any other pictures with the houses in them!) are the homes on Hanover Place that have remained vacant for over a year. Thoron Development bought the houses and let them sit while they worked on Permitting. During the permitting phase the houses became a breeding ground for drugs, sex, more drugs, and a shelter/bathroom for vermin and homeless people that broke in.
So Thoron Finally decided to do something about their embarrassing property. (side note: myself and many other neighbors had been requesting a fence be put up to keep out the "rif raff" for months...they kept say "oh, next week we'll do that". apparently their concept of a week is much different than a standard calendar! But at least now it is being done).
can you see the door hanging off of the side of the wall?! LOL. It is a shame that the developers couldn't leave the facade's of these beautiful old houses and build the condo's behind it to historically preserve the integrity of the building and the original architectural style. I personally do not like the new condo design...But that's just my opinion :)

the renderers for this image forgot to remove the two houses at the left side of the photo (the peach and brown brick house that Offc. Wright was in front of). Those are the houses (& lack there of) in the photo's above.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Memorable cab ride: follow up to my thank you

I jumped in the cab this morning to head over to a client space (a 10 minute cab ride at most). My driver was an older gentleman wearing a black hat. I could see what I thought were two W’s on his hat, so I asked “is that a WWII hat?” and it was indeed. I thanked him for his service and sacrifice. He downplayed the war and told me “it’s been such a long time since the war, there is really no need for ‘Thank you’ now a days”. That made me feel stupid for a split second and then I thought to myself “Whatever old man!! It’s never too late!” I told him that it was never to late to thank someone for defending our freedom or coming to the aid of those under the oppression of a dictator.

He told me he was in the 4th Infantry under Patton. He came in through Italy and they eventually made there way up to Bastogne. He talked about how he was drafted into the war; otherwise he doesn’t know if he would ever have volunteered to go. He also said the most memorable advice he got was from his 1st Lt. right during training…the Lt. told him to NEVER volunteer for anything in the Army…Interesting (insert scratching forehead emoticon here).

The more he talked, the more I realized that he was indeed moved by my asking him questions. I (briefly…I wanted to hear his stories) told him about the Honor flight and how it had impacted me and “moved” me. Mr. Wilson started to tell me about the most memorable event (and “moving”) for him…he stopped talking for a few seconds and that is when I realized he was getting choked up…so of course I start crying in the back (good thing I’m not wearing make-up these days!)…He said upon docking the ship in NY harbor, there was a massive American flag, the size of an entire building, and a huge sign that said (and it took him a lot of effort to get these words out) “WELCOME HOME! JOB WELL DONE”… He said he still has a vivid image of that scene as if he were there. I find it absolutely amazing! Such a simple phrase can still penetrate straight to the soul of this (84 year old; yes, I asked) man and result in such an emotional moment for both of us.

We continued to talk. He said that there are very few WWII veterans still alive, and a large portion of those men have never seen the memorial. At the end of the ride he said he didn’t understand why it took America over 60 years to build a memorial to the soldiers of WWII…he named off many of the memorials that were built before the WWII (thus why he tried to minimalism my ‘Thank you’ in the beginning of the cab ride) In his words “for a while many veterans felt as if what we did was of no importance to America…or that everyone forgot”. I told him his sacrifices are not forgotten! “Your sacrifices give us the freedom today to be as ignorant and flippant with the freedom we do enjoy”…I know! I'm so cheesy these days!

So as I got out of the cab, he told me Thank you for talking to him and then pointed out that he did not reciprocate the “age question”…then he winked and smiled as he drove off! What a cute old man(sorry I didn't take a picture!)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Simple acts of gratitude

For the past week I've been reading Band of Brothers (by Stephen Ambrose) of which the HBO series was based. PLUG: This is an AWESOME documentary of the 101st Airborne 506th PIR's E Company for those who haven't seen it or don't read ;)

Forgive me for saying so, but I find this book disturbing in the sense that it is a reminder to me of how often I forget what the men and women of our military have done and continue to do to ensure our freedom as a great nation. This book gives fabulous account of specific instances where these men were prepared to die for each other and our country. Their physical, mental and emotion trials, exhaustion and perseverance. The book alone has brought me to tears just thinking about the sacrifice.

It has also completely convicted me (in a good way) just thinking of the numerous times I've been on the mall by the memorials of DC (or anywhere for that matter...) and not even thought about their significance. We, as Americans, go to great length to build these memorials and make awesome movies...but in the end I feel I (and a large portion of our nation) has been "de-sensitized" (if you will) to the structures and the reality of the movies. I overlook what I am surrounded by on a daily basis (literally). I challenge anyone who reads this to never overlook our memorials to our freedom fighters ever again. I know I am using absolutes in that sentence...but seriously! (even if you just take 5 seconds) say a thank you prayer for those who commit/committed to make our nation one of freedom!

OK...on to the point of this blog topic. I was flying to Kansas City, Mo this weekend for Mary Ann Williams wedding (most fun wedding ever!). Brooke and I got to BWI for our 9:30 flight on Saturday morning and saw a group of about 50 men and women in BDU's (so of course Brooke made a really funny joke about this being "my kind of flight" haha! good one Brooke, sheesh!). There were also a lot of civilians standing around in bright yellow t-shirts. Since we were flying Southwest (plug: the coolest airline), the gate attendant let the leader of the t-shirts make an announcement. They were volunteers from a non-profit organization ( that raises funds to bring Vets to see the National Memorials dedicated to their sacrifice. The plane was almost full of WWII veterans. These men (and a few women from the Navy nurse corps) had no idea that the Army had sent out a small detail to welcome them. Further, they had NO IDEA that the non-profit had past out flags AND that most of the airport terminal had gathered to welcome them. The crowds lined the mezzanine and terminal to clap, cheer, wave, and shake the hands of these men and women!

It was so moving!! Even now I am welling up thinking about just how emotional this was. When the Army detail were called at ease many of them wiped tears from their eyes! It really was so amazing to see these veterans brought to tears by the gratitude and sincere appreciation from the crowd. Lastly, the woman who checked us in on Southwest made a comment to Brooke and I (just after the non-profit guy made his announcement) in a flippant voice that "we're non that free"... At first I didn't think I heard her right and I smiled and we walked off. Brooke and I came to the conclusion that we did indeed hear her correctly and we could NOT believe she said that. The more I think about it, the more annoyed I get! It kills me to think that men and women are fighting for the freedom and way of life this ignorant woman is accustomed to despite her attitude (which she would not be able to express openly if it had not been for these men she was insulting)...but I guess that shows the difference in the character between our Military/Veterans and people like this woman! Good thing too :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Anita and the money from God...

A few months ago, my church did something pretty cool. They sent around the offering basket. ...huhhh?!! I know, right?! "how is that cool?" you ask... Well, typically I get all weird about the offering basket because that means someone wants you give money and I automatically tend to hold my wallet a little closer to my gut when someone is asking me for money( I don't really get that bad; but other people tend to). Well not this time! My pastors at Mount Vernon Foursquare Fellowship (Plug: ) sent around the offering and told us to each TAKE an envelope. Each envelope had a different denomination of money. This was when the economy was really starting to tank and everyone (including myself) was anxious about getting laid off, getting pay cuts, "money stuff" and so on...

My objective: Pray about who God wants us to give the money to.
My denomination: $20
My time frame: whenever I feel like it

So, to be quite honest...I put the money in my back pocket and it must have fallen o
ut over the course of my day; probably at the Safeway. (just so you all know; I did pray that whoever found it needed it and it would serve as a blessing for their day). Anyway, I just happened to have cash that week...yes friends! a whopping $7 bucks...or at lease I would soon be getting the cash.

I had (up to this point) never given money to anyone in my neighborhood. I strongly believe that the majority of the homeless people that are asking for money will spend it on crack, some other drug or alcohol. So with this new challenge from my pastor to pray about whom to give this money to I was somewhat anxious and not necessarily excited about it. I get asked for money on a daily basis, how am I supposed to know who to give it to! Jess had said that she was praying that someone would ask specifically for the amount that she had…ie “hey, do you have $20 I can have?”. What are the odds right?! Since I had lost the $20 I originally took out of the offering plate, I decided to use the $7 that my neighbor owed me for girls scout cookies as the “give away ‘Jesus loves you’ money”.

This type of thing is completely awkward for me to do so I decided to just say “Ok Lord, If I’m supposed to give this to someone, they need to ask me pretty specifically for $7”. A few days later it had snowed. I was driving Becky’s (my SIL) car since she was in OK for a while. The car was parked on the street covered in snow which had somewhat turned to ice (this is an important detail for later). As I was rushing home (to change, get Tana, and drive out to Woodbridge to see the Houks for supper) a woman (whom I had never seen before) asked me if I had $8 so she could fill her prescription. I instinctively said “no” and kept walking…wait! She asked for $8…I’m about to have $7… Lord, what do you think?? Ehhh, close enough! I went to Kris’s house, got the $7 bucks and walked back up to the corner where the woman had been. She was still there. I asked the woman her name. Her name is Anita. She again told me that she needed to fill her prescription. I told her that I had been given money from my church to give to someone who needed it. I also told her that the money was not from me, that it was a testament that the Lord loves her and will provide for her in her time of need. Anita thanked me repeatedly despite my protest to not thank me, to thank the Lord for providing it to her.

Ok, that was awesome! right? I run home, change and run outside to scrape the ice and snow off of the car. As I am laboring away scraping ice off the windshield I look up and see two people walking out of the ally. Hmmm, that lady looks an awful lot like Anita. It was!!! Of course any normal person would just let it go… not me. I started walking down the street towards the two people coming out of the ally (zipping up their pants).

“Anita…did you get your prescription?” I asked

“um, no…I am on my way to get it right now” she replied

“Oh, really?? What were you doing in the ally?”

“um, I was just talking to my friend”

“with your pants down?”

By now the man that had been with her told me to mind my own business so I told him to shut his mouth I wasn’t talking to him…Anita was walking off by now; quickly. So I yelled down the street that she deserved better than this…”clean yourself up Anita; life has more to offer you than this”

I was fuming by now! I can’t believe I just gave this crack whore (I am not being derogatory...that is what she does) 7$!! To top it off I can’t find the keys to the car anywhere! I need to leave asap to get to Woodbridge. I look for the keys everywhere. I must have locked them in the car…I get a flash light and look in. The keys are no where to be seen. I must have dropped them on the street. They are buried in the snow that I just cleared off the car. Now my neighbor James is out there helping me look for them (He is in a wheel chair and has no legs, but he’s digging through the snow with me! I love this block!!). I can’t find them. I go back inside and retrace my steps…I feel a break down coming on!

I call Dawn to tell her that I am running late and sure enough the flood gates of my disappointment and stress came blubbering out all over my dear friend. Looking back I must have sounded like a child. I was talking (complaining rather) a million miles a minute while crying about never having given money before; wasting the money that was supposed to be from the Lord; losing my keys…the key to the house is on them. I can’t come down for supper (that was probably the most disappointing part! I had been looking forward to a family meal for quite some time…). I must say, Dawn did a really good job (of course she did) of calming me down. She also assured me that my obedience in giving the money was all I could do. Its not my job to make people use the money in a "Godly" way…my only commitment was to give it from the Lord and not myself; what happens after it leaves my hands is not in my control. Further, how am I to know what kind of impact giving my $7 "from the Lord" had on Anita?

So months have gone by and I still see Anita from time to time. I always say hello using her name. She has a very timid and unsure voice, but she always replies back with at least a “hi”. She still asks for money to get a "prescription". HELLO!!! Are you SERIOUS!!?? We’ve had many conversations about the fact that she lied to me and I will not give her money ever again. I’ve made it very clear that I will give to her anything she needs accept money and will help her in any way that I can. She came down to see me last weekend while I was sitting on my front step. She had asked me for money for her “prescription” earlier that day while I was with my neighbor Dee. Of course I told her then that she lied to me about the prescription and I would not be giving her money (I should record my response and just hit play every time she asks, right?!). Now she wanted to come and tell me that she really does have a prescription. I took this opportunity to talk to her like normal person would take a serious conversation. I asked her what I was supposed to think when I see her & her “friend” coming out of the ally with BOTH of their pants down and unzipped? She replied “I do have a prescription though” completely ignoring my attempt at a question putting her in my position. So I gave her my left over Luciana CafĂ© chicken I had intended to eat for supper and a Sunkist (thanks mom for bringing those down).

So as of when I saw her last Thursday (yes, I meant to write this last week...I KNOW! My blog activity is borderline lame)… she had very nice braids in her hair during the winter months and now she has a tangled mess on top of her head. She wears a mini skirt and a shirt that is not long enough to cover her stomach nor does it button up all the way. The possibility that it’s supposed to be like that is pretty strong. I see her calling after some of the men walking around aimlessly and loitering on the stoops. She seems to disappear and reappear every few days. I wish there were something I could do to help her get herself together or "make" her realize that as a creation in the image of God she is worth more than this. Unfortunately, I am afraid this poor woman is so used to this life that she does not "want" something better because she can’t wrap her mind around what that “better” would be.